AUBURN, Ala. - With a 6-5 regular-season finale win over the No. 20 Auburn Tigers in Auburn, Ala., on Sunday, the Ole Miss softball team clinched an eighth-place finish in the Southeastern Conference standings and will advance to the conference tournament for the first time in the 10-year program history.
A Florida win over South Carolina that ended during the middle of the Rebels' third inning meant that Ole Miss (24-35, 10-20 SEC) was mathematically guaranteed the eighth slot in the tournament, whether the Rebels won or lost Sunday's contest.
But that did not stop the Rebels from rallying late in the game, with most of the starters having been taken out, to secure a 10-win conference season for the second time in school history.
"I am just incredibly proud of this team," said first-year Rebel head coach Missy Dickerson. "Even after we had taken most of the starters out and put in our subs, they kept fighting and just gave great effort. I can't describe how exciting it is for this team to have made such strides since the beginning of this year and to make the tournament for the first time ever."
A three-run sixth inning was enough to give the Rebels a come-from-behind victory. Junior left-handed pitcher Mary Jane Callahan (11-17) earned the win in relief after senior righty Dana Brill started and allowed two runs on two hits through three innings.
Callahan was stellar at the plate, going 3-for-3 with two runs scored, while senior Mandy Ott added a pair of hits and freshman shortstop Lisa Conchos went 1-for-2 with three RBI.
Freshman catcher Michelle May hit a two-run single to get the scoring started in the top of the first inning. Callahan, who started in right field, led off the game with a hit up the middle, and senior third baseman Rebecca McIntire reached on an error before Conchos sacrificed them to second and third base. May recorded her 13th and 14th RBI of the season on the play.
Auburn (34-19, 15-15 SEC) answered back in the bottom half of the first with a pair of runs as well, including an RBI single from pitcher Holly Currie, to tie the game at 2-2.
The top of the second saw one of the more bizarre plays that will happen in a season. Sophomore outfielder Kayla Mosley struck out swinging for what would have been the third out. The umpire ruled that the catcher dropped the pitch, which enables the runner to advance to first. The Auburn fielders had already begun to leave the field, though, so Mosley continued running unhindered all the way to third base. The Rebels did not score in the frame, though.
Auburn took the lead in the bottom of the fourth with a pair of two-out RBI singles by shortstop Ashley Griffin and catcher Tatiana Fernandez to make it 4-2.
The Rebels led off the top of the fifth with three straight singles to load the bases with no outs. Conchos then hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring junior outfielder Vanessa Gibbs to cut the deficit to 4-3. The Rebels would go on to strand three runners with no more runs scoring.
Ole Miss used a combination of the small game and a couple of big hits to generate three runs and take back the lead in the top of the sixth. After Ott led off the frame with a double off the left-field wall, the Rebels strung together four straight bunts and took advantage of a couple of misplays by the Tigers to tie the game at 4-4 and load the bases. Conchos then notched her second and third RBI of the day with a double to right-center, scoring Gibbs and Callahan to make it 6-4.
Auburn's Sara Ghezzi hit a two-out RBI single to left field in the bottom half of the sixth to cut the Rebels' lead to one, but the Tigers could not add any more runs.
Currie (18-11) took the loss in the circle with a complete game, as she allowed six runs (two earned) on nine Rebel hits, while striking out eight and walking one.
Ole Miss won the series with Auburn for the first time since 1998.
The SEC Tournament will be held in Athens, Ga., on May 11-14. As the No. 8 seed, the Rebels will face off against No. 1 seed Alabama in the first-round matchup at 2:30 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.
Softball heads to SEC tourney for first time
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